Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What We Have Here is a Failure to Clutch (Postgame Notes 26 August 2008)

It's not that the Yankees didn't have chances.

In nearly every inning, it seemed, the Yankees had a chance to tie the Red Sox--or at least to chip away at the lead--and every inning, when it mattered most, they came up empty.

The boos came down heaviest on Alex Rodriguez, and, it seems, rightly so--two grounded-into double plays, the last one coming with the bases loaded. The player who was the unquestionable MVP last year seems to have completely forgotten the meaning of clutch and instead is playing as though it's still October 2006.

Rodriguez is not the only one at fault, however.

Jason Giambi has been equally not as good with runners in scoring position, and when the two hit behind each other, it doesn't seem to matter if Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu all reach base, because it seems as though none of them will score.

Andy Pettitte did not have a good outing.

The Yankees staked him to a 1-0 and then a 2-1 lead, and both times he could not hold the lead the next half inning. While some of the blame lies with a mysterious shrinking strike zone, many of Andy's misses were clearly out of the strike zone.

What is especially painful about this game is that it matters so much. Last year, when faced with a similar situation, the Yankees swept Boston at the Stadium (with a little help from Scooter the Squirrel) and then took two out of three at Fenway.

The Yankees don't have the luxury to be able to lose this series and still remain serious playoff contenders, so asking them to win the next two games--tomorrow with Ponson on the mound--seems like a tall order.

Unlike the Phillies or the Brewers or (dare I say it) the Rays, the Yankees don't seem to show any sort of fight, and the problem has been going on all year. As a fan, it's beyond frustrating to watch--you want the team to care, but right now it's as though we're watching lethargy in action.

I know I'm spoiled. I don't remember the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs, but I am used to teams like the Nets and the Jets and Syracuse Football being at the bottom of their league. It's a much different experience following a team that isn't expected to win than one that is (and is not winning)--there's no frustration in the former.

The Yankees will have to try to pull out a miracle.

It's not impossible, but they are running out of time.

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